Decisions, decisions. The Indianapolis Colts have many to make in the next few weeks regarding restricted free agents.
An NFL team’s salary cap can be a slippery slope when it comes to determining how much and when to spend. That’s why restricted free agents can be vital to filling a roster with players of value who don’t cost as much as unrestricted free agents.
It’s just one writer throwing opinions at the wall, but here are three players who make the most sense when scanning the team’s RFA list.
Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman led the Colts in tackles for two of his three seasons before his numbers dropped this past season, in part because he missed four games due to injury. Freeman still led all NFL tacklers in postseason stops with 32, and he had 95 in the regular season, 366 in his brief career since his arrival from the Canadian Football League.
His 2014 cap hit of $576,667 means he won’t cost too much to bring back for one more year. His signing makes the most sense of all the players on this list. The Colts have enough concerns at other positions, so having Freeman with D’Qwell Jackson at inside linebacker allows the team to concentrate more money elsewhere, specifically on the defensive and offensive lines.
Running back Dan Herron gave the Colts a much-need backfield boost after Ahmad Bradshaw was lost for the season due to a fractured fibula in the team’s 10th game. Not excusing three lost fumbles, he ran for 351 yards and 4.5 yards per carry with one score while also proving to be an effective pass catcher with 21 receptions for 173 yards.
“Boom” was even better in the postseason when it came to the pass game with 20 catches for 128 yards, including 10 receptions for 85 yards against Cincinnati. The catches tied Joseph Addai’s franchise record for a postseason game. Herron ran for 170 yards, 3.8 yards per carry, with one touchdown in the playoffs.
He turns 26 next month, so there’s plenty of life left in those young legs. And Herron cost just $570,000 last season. The Colts should be looking to move on after Trent Richardson didn’t pan out. It’s best to have someone in place who can handle whatever role is required, depending upon which direction the team goes at the position, be it the draft or free agency. Herron should be back.
Long snapper Matt Overton is an obvious No. 3 on this list. That might surprise some people, considering his special-teams role, but when is the last time Overton had a bad snap? He rarely makes a mistake and forms a solid combination with kicker Adam Vinatieri and punter Pat McAfee.
Overton cost just $570,000 last season, so again, he won’t cost much to retain his services, which are overlooked sometimes until there’s a bad snap that proves costly on a field goal or punt. Plus Overton is one of the most visible players in the community. He’s always participating in events and giving of his time to improve the lives of others. He took the long road to get to the NFL and has proven to be a keeper.
Some might mention center A.Q. Shipley, who became the center of controversy after losing his job to undrafted rookie Jonotthan Harrison and then Khaled Holmes. While having a guy like Shipley back might make financial sense based on his $570,000 cap hit from last year, it would be asking a lot to expect him to be a happy camper for one more year.
Shipley was a reliable option at an unsettled position until he inexplicably was benched. When the team counted on him as a reserve, he was reliable. He wasn’t happy about the decision, nor were others on the team, but he just kept preparing to play and was ready.
He’s hopeful he can find somewhere else to play via free agency, and based on how the team handled him this past season, he should have that right to search for a better fit.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.